The Theatre Now
Reaction to A Doll’s House (Film)
Patrick Garland’s 1973 film adaptation of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, is an exact portrayal of the play Ibsen wrote. Garland did nothing to change or alter the themes or context of Ibsen’s work. This refreshing adaptation contrasts the often overdone feminist productions of this play. Using star-studded cast of actors including Claire Bloom, Anthony Hopkins and Sir Ralph Richardson, the audience is left to interpret the film as they see fit.
In this version of the play, Garland tried successfully to portray an exact copy of Ibsen’s work. By doing this, he allows the audience to decipher what the true message of the play is, rather than force the audience to only see the director’s point of view, as most adaptations do. As stated in Vincent Canby’s review “There are no desperate attempts to tie-in to contemporary feminist movements, nor is there any use of the sort of contemporary jargon that would…have made this play into an antique” (Canby). He only slightly strays from this to create a change in scenery. Canby takes this a step further by comparing the use of a 1-set play to Nora’s physical confinement: “In spite of the excursions outside, the film largely succeeds because… we experience…the sense of physical confinement.” (Canby). This simplification and refusal to give in to
The characters in this adaptation are very strong. Nora, played by Bloom, is especially well conceived. She manages to portray a levelheaded, non-feminist, version of Nora, a feat few have achieved in modern theater. She comes off as very flirtatious in this adaptation, leading the audience to realize the confinement she faces when she confronts Torvald in the third act. Canby also mentioned this in his article: “It seems as if Miss Bloom starts off slowly so as to have heights still to attain in her final confrontation with her husband.” (Canby). Torvald is well played by Anthony Hopkins, and shows more emotions than other adaptations, Canby notes: “Torvald…played with such decency that the husband is less an unfeeling prig than a sincerely wrongheaded lover.” This decency is portrayed especially well in the final scene where the audience sees him standing in silence as Nora leaves.
Overall, Garland’s adaptation was very straightforward and well conceived. Using well cast actors and staying true to the Ibsen’s script, Garland was able to pull off a feat that few directors have been able to do, keep A Doll’s House true to Ibsen’s vision.